Married off in lockdown, they were trapped in flesh trade

Police urged to book cases against accused under POCSO Act and Juvenile Justice Act

Sujatha (name changed to protect her identity) was barely 15 when she was married off to a 32-year-old-man in May this year when the entire country was in the midst of a lockdown.

Unable to live with the man who was more than double her age, Sujatha returned to her home in K.R. Pet in Mandya district only to face hostile parents.

She left her house for Mysuru with the help of an acquaintance about two months ago, only to fall into a trap laid by traffickers.

Sujatha was among the three young girls rescued earlier this week from flesh trade racketeers in Mysuru and Bengaluru in different operations carried out by the police with the assistance of volunteers from Odanadi Seva Samsthe, an organisation working for the rescue and rehabilitation of trafficked and sexually exploited women.

Two girls were rescued from different houses in Hebbal police station limits in Mysuru and one girl was rescued from a house in Jnana Bharathi police station limits in Bengaluru. Four persons, including a woman, have been arrested and investigation is under way.

Startlingly, all the three rescued girls were victims of child marriage with at least two them forced to tie the knot during the recent lockdown when there was a surge in hush-hush child marriages, said Mr. Parashu, founder of Odanadi, who is also a member of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

The helpless girls literally found themselves between the devil and the deep sea. For, when they returned to their houses, unable to lead a life with their grooms, they were not just made to feel unwelcome, but forced to earn money or leave the house, he said.

The three girls were facing a hostile atmosphere in their respective homes after their return and became easy targets for flesh traders, who were on the prowl, said Stanley, who is also a co-founder of Odanadi.

Two of the rescued girls, who are still minors, have been handed over to the Child Welfare Committees (CWC) of Mysuru and Mandya.

Meanwhile, officials of the Women and Child Welfare Department in Mysuru confirmed that the girl handed over to the CWC in Mysuru after the rescue operation on Sunday had been sheltered at the Government Home for Girls in the city. โ€œThough the girl was a victim of child marriage, we are yet to ascertain if there was a hostile atmosphere at home,โ€ an official said.

Mr. Stanley made out a strong case for the police to book cases against the accused under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and Juvenile Justice Act in addition to Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act and bring to book even the โ€œcustomersโ€ for sexually exploiting the victims.

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